Around the Corner in Hackensack : Swanson’s Bait and Tackle – Pilot Independent
Swanson’s Bait and Tackle on the north edge of Hackensack has been a mainstay of residents and vacationers for more than seven decades.
Started by Jake “Chappy” Cline in (best guess) the late ‘40s, Cline’s Minnows sold bait and tackle, block ice for the “ice box” and gas for the outboard from a tiny store with a unique painted rock exterior.
It may have been a”no-frills” operation, but it had all the basics you needed before heading for the cabin or resort.
Fast forward 70 plus years, and there’s still a bait and tackle store at the same spot. And it still has everything you need.
Plus a bunch of stuff you also really, really want.
But what a change! In 1970 Chappy Cline sold to Ed and Marcia Swanson who re-named the store Swanson’s Bait. In 1981 they replaced the modest bait shop with a 2,000 square foot log building, now the main part of the store.
In 1995 the Swansons sold to Jim and Lisa Tuller who added another 4,000 square feet, expanded tackle and groceries, added clothing and gifts, doubled the number of gas pumps and increased the bait business.
In early 2017, the Tullers handed over the keys and minnow nets to current owners Dean and Chris Garoutte.
“Things are going well, but we have learned a lot in these four years,” says Chris. “There are so many moving parts to this business: fuel, bait, tackle, groceries, gifts, clothing, online sales.”
The online part of the business continues to grow, with Swanson’s shipping orders nationwide.
In 2020, the Garouttes were ready to celebrate the store’s 50th anniversary under the Swanson’s Bait name. And then the COVID pandemic hit.
They still celebrated the anniversary, but were not able to do the customer appreciation and activities that were planned.
“At the start of the pandemic, it was very quiet,” Chris relates. “Then as spring progressed, we saw more people coming north to stay at their cabins. It was definitely a different year, with people not having school sports and other activities to be involved in. Instead, they found themselves enjoying the lakes and outdoor activities more as families.
“We were fortunate to be in the heart of the area that people wanted to go to!”
The pandemic created its own challenges due to shortages of clothing, gifts, food items, even fishing tackle. But the Garouttes and staff did their best to keep the store stocked as merchandise became available.
They even did a few car-side deliveries of bags of minnows. “Which we will be happy to do any time!” says Chris.
One of the challenges, she adds, even in a no-COVID year, “always seems to be finding live bait!”
Many customers don’t realize until they step inside how big the store is, or what’s available.
“Once inside, new customers often say, ‘Wow, this is way bigger than I expected!”
And the old-timers? “Hearing people say they have stopped here for years or came here as kids, is always fun,” says Chris.
Swanson’s offers the anglers a great selection of live bait (nightcrawlers, leeches, all types of minnows) as well as lures, tackle and fishing rods of all types, including a full line of St. Croix rods.
They also have all the extras like life jackets, nets, stringers, buckets, fishing hats, rain gear, bug spray, sunscreen and much more!
The gift shop is filled with fun selections, starting with lake-name clothing and gift items, moccasins, specialty foods, kids’ toys and activities.
Of course, Swanson’s also sells gas for the car or outboard plus oil, diesel fuel, and also refills propane tanks. Customers can pay at the pump but they may want to stop inside the store to hear the latest fishing reports and check out what’s new in the store.
“We are very fortunate to have a great staff that are knowledgeable about the area and enjoy talking to customers about fishing,” says Chris
Swanson’s Bait and Tackle is open seven days a week, year-round at 6 a.m.. Winter hours are 6 a.m.-7 p.m.; Fridays, open until 8 p.m. For more information call (218) 675-6176 or visit the website at swansonsbait.com